Jubilation in Caracas as Hugo Chavez returns from Cuba (and announces his arrival on Twitter)

 

Caracas

President Hugo Chavez made a surprise return to Venezuela today, with enthusiastic crowds cheering his arrival after a two-month absence for cancer treatment in Cuba.

The Venezuelan leader returned at 2.30am, accompanied by acting president Nicolas Maduro, who Mr Chavez named as his successor in the event that his illness prevented him from returning to power.

President Chavez tweeted after landing in Caracas: “We have arrived in the Venezuelan fatherland. Thank you, my God! Thank you, my beloved people. We continue the treatment here.” The news spread quickly through the streets of the capital, where car horns and fireworks announced the leader’s return. The 58-year-old’s reappearance comes after the first photographs of him in two months were released on state television channel VTV on Friday. The pictures showed the President smiling from a hospital bed in Havana, flanked by his daughters Rosa and Maria.

Mr Chavez’s prolonged absence – and the government’s refusal to disclose the exact nature of his cancer – had started to cause jitters in Venezuela, with students last week protesting outside the Cuban embassy, accusing Havana of meddling in the country’s affairs.

But there was jubilation among the leftist president’s supporters. A large crowd gathered outside the San Martín military hospital in western Caracas to show support for their ailing leader, who was taken straight there. “I cried from happiness when I heard”, said Campoverde Bolívar. “I have been here since five o’clock this morning to show support…”.

Outside the military hospital, trucks with enormous sound systems blasted out the soundtracks from Mr Chavez’s recent re-election campaign, while hundreds dressed in the red of Mr Chavez’s political party danced and chanted in the street.

In the central plaza, another group of ‘Chavistas’ began celebrating before dawn. “It’s the greatest, most beautiful thing that could have happened”, said Ovaldo Torrealba. “Chavez is back in our country, Chavez is home.”

In the more affluent districts of eastern Caracas – opposition strongholds – the mood was more sombre. “It’s a comedy”, said Luigi, a businessman in the Altamira district.

“Chavez is considered a saint now,” he added. “He’s like a religious thing; he’s not a political leader any more. This illness has been great for him, it has turned him into someone that the people think can perform miracles.”

Others were less critical. “I don’t support Chavez”, said José Luis, another Altamira resident, “but his return can only be good for the country. We have spent two months in doubt. No one knew what was going on. Now that the President is back, the country can try to move forward rather than being in this ridiculous state of not knowing anything”. The Venezuelan government has given no indication as to when or whether Mr Chavez will resume his duties. He has still not been officially sworn in as President, after he won re-election last year.

Before undergoing his fourth cancer surgery since he announced his illness in June 2011, he nominated his successor as Mr Maduro, a former bus driver. If Mr Chavez does not resume power, a new election will be held. Henrique Capriles, who lost his presidential bid in the October elections, will be expected to stand against Maduro for the presidency.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever